Sunday, December 12, 2010

Capsule Review: It Happened One Night (1934)

Made shortly before the MPAA began enforcing the 1930 production code, It Happened One Night is a film fueled by spitfire dialogue and the sexual tension between its two leads. While known by many solely for the scene where Claudette Colbert famously hitches a ride by pulling up her skirt, other displays of sexuality between Colbert and Clark Gable are treated with slightly more restraint - Gable's Peter showing Colbert's Ellie how a man undresses, the pair nearly literally taking a roll in the hay, and the symbolic "walls of Jericho" tumbling down during the final shot. Frank Capra has a reputation for schmaltz and sentimentality, and this film basically wrote the book on romantic screwball comedies - including those necessary misunderstandings which fuel the plot - but he was also a master filmmaker, and gently guides the pace along to a highly entertaining and satisfying ending. Its impact may feel slightly quaint compared to the relaxed standards of today, but the dialogue remains sharp and the performances unmatched. A pleasure from start to finish.


Squish said...

You cram a lot into your capsule, Doug!

Doug Tilley said...

It starts to overflow my brain, Squish. Of course, it doesn't *really* all fit so neatly into a paragraph, but I try to hit the main points as hard as I possibly can.

I find that the only problem with reviewing the 1001 movies is that I tend to enjoy them so darn much. Even the ones that I don't find particularly entertaining, I usually appreciate them on some sort of technical level. I'd love to hear from some of the other participants regarding films that they don't believe should be on the list. I've only hit a couple, to be honest.

Squish said...

hahah, don't you worry there's plenty of stinkers in that list, and some I'd even call Jay Schneider (editor and compiler of the 1001 Book) and beg him to remove...

In these early days of the club's resurgence, people want to celebrate film, thus they pick what they know is good and popular.

Have you read the reviews for Vampyr (1932), or Naked Lunch (1991). Those must be the 'couple' you're talking about.

I fully intend to pummel The Sound Of Music on the 30th. But that's the other thing I love so much about the club - I can get angry and make it amusing.

And of course the other thing I love about it is finding new bloggers to read.

*tip of the hat*

Doug Tilley said...

I'm a Naked Lunch apologist, so that one won't get too much vitriol from me..

But the one that really has stuck out for me as not belonging is Orson Welles' The Stranger, which is a perfectly entertaining film, but was obviously a "for the money" job for Welles, who directs blandly and gives an awful, leering performance in it. It's frankly a bit embarrassing that it's in the book next to The Magnificent Ambersons and Touch of Evil. I love Welles, but it devalues the inclusion of his other, MUCH better films to have it included.